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Ventura Steps Into the Ring
By Martin Kaste
August 23, 1999

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What did you think about Governor Ventura's SummerSlam appearance? Is there a conflict of interest, and even if not, does he have an obligation as a public figure to be a role model? Share your opinion in the MPR Forum.

Governor Jesse Ventura climbed back into the ring August 22 - and for a few fleeting moments, he actually did a little wrestling. Ventura's appearance as a "guest referee" at the World Wrestling Federation's SummerSlam event had caused weeks of speculation and some criticism from the state's political establishment, but the governor's actual performance was somewhat anticlimactic.

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you, the most powerful referee in World Wrestling Federation history! Jesse "the Body" Ventura! (crowd cheers)
The hometown crowd cheered wildly as Governor Ventura strutted out onto the floor of the sold-out basketball arena in downtown Minneapolis. Ventura was playing guest referee for the final fight in the WWF's SummerSlam wrestling extravaganza. After a month of hype, the fans clearly expected him to show off a few wrestling moves before the night was over.

And sure enough, halfway through the fight, Referee Ventura found himself obliged to impose order by tossing an interloper out of the ring.

Announcer: He's got his hand on Shane! Shane McMahon has been ejected - physically - by Jesse "The Body" Ventura!

Ventura: That's for your old man, you little bastard!
The victim of Ventura's discipline was Shane McMahon, son of WWF owner Vince McMahon, whom Ventura once sued in real life. Never missing a chance to develop another story angle, the WWF now plays up the supposed grudge between McMahon and Ventura.

All in all, Ventura's 20-minute appearance was not nearly as physical or thrilling as many had hoped. Given the physical shape he's in, that's understandable - bursitis in his hip has made him limp in recent weeks, and he's carrying around a bigger paunch than he did in his wrestling days - a fact emphasized by the less-than-flattering black-and-white referee stripes.

Still, Ventura made it clear he was comfortable returning to the ring.

Ventura: There's a lot of media saying I'm a disgrace for being here! (crowd boos) But I'll tell you this! I'm proud I'm a wrestler! I'm proud I was a wrestler! And I'm proud to be here tonight!
But there were also signs that the promoters heard the critics who accuse him of tarnishing his office. He did not appear as part of the night's more salacious acts - such as the female wrestlers who struggled to remove each others' bustiers. The wrestlers' custom of pointing at their crotches and cursing was also held to a minimum - compared to other WWF shows. In fact, if the microphones picked up anybody cursing, it was the Governor:
Ventura: What's this (bleeped)? I told you about that! I told you about that!
At no point did Ventura or anyone else in the show refer to him as "the governor" - even though the prefight promos made it clear that was his role.
Ventura: You're in my state now, I am law and order here, the pinfall will take place in the middle of the ring, is that clear?
Ventura's gubernatorial status was also apparent in the constant presence of his usual two-man state trooper detail, dressed in street clothes, who lurked near the ring, crouched at the ready - although it was unclear exactly what they were ready for, and what they would do if it happened. Whether by luck or design, no one took a serious enough swing at the Governor to test the troopers' reaction time.